A hapū project to restore kauri forest around one of Northland's most spectacular harbours has been given a $1.54 million boost by the Government's One Billion Tree Fund.
The restoration effort — described by Forestry Minister Shane Jones as a ''thousand-year project'' — will take place in the Whangaroa Harbour's Kōwhairoa Peninsula Historic Reserve, which was returned as part of Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa's 2017 Treaty settlement.
The reserve, at the head of scenic Pekapeka Bay, gets its name because the entire peninsula used to turn yellow with kōwhai flowers until pests and loggers arrived.
The funding will go to Te Komanga Marae Trust which has until now been working to remove pests and restore the forest on a mostly voluntary basis.
The driving force behind the project, Roger Kingi, said the trust couldn't achieve its long-term goals without government funding.
''Nobody can. The Crown has to come on board,'' he said.
Replanting would focus on 110ha of land where the trust, through years of hard work, had managed to reduce predator levels to just three per cent.
''If we didn't do what we're doing there'd be no native trees left. It's for our mokopuna.''
Friday's funding announcement was special for a number of reasons, not just because the isolated location meant officials had to be ferried out on the harbourmaster's catamaran and then by barge.
It was also one of the last rolls of the dice for Jones ahead of the general election, and an unusual show of cross-party camaraderie with four Northland MPs from three rival parties taking part.
Jones said the project was the start of a ''thousand-year journey'' to recreate the kauri forest that once dominated the area.
At the height of the kauri trade so many trees were felled and floated downstream it was possible to walk on logs from Whangaroa township to Totara North, on the other side of the harbour, without getting one's feet wet.
The pūtea (money) was a gesture of support for the trust's volunteer work and would ''add a bit of fuel'' to their reforestation efforts.
As well as long-term biodiversity and tourism benefits, 10-14 jobs would be created during the project.
Regional councillor Jack Craw said the area was ''incredibly important'' with species of hebe and five-finger found nowhere else in New Zealand.
Ongoing pest control would be essential to ensure the new plantings were not eaten by pests or monstered by weeds, he said.
The project is supported by Te Uru Rākau, Northland Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Kiwis for Kiwi, Forest and Bird, and Taipa Area School. Inmates at Ngāwha Prison will grow the seedlings.
Also announced on Friday was a $286,000 grant to Te Roroa Development Charitable Trust for a restoration project on the west coast.
Te Roroa is converting 200ha of a 900ha exotic forest block to native bush using seedlings from its own nursery.
The grant will allow the iwi to employ a nursery manager and kaimahi for three years with the aim of producing 100,000 native seedlings a year.
MPs Matt King, Willow-Jean Prime and Kelvin Davis also took part in Friday's ceremony.
Kōwhairoa Peninsula was the historic location of Komanga Marae. It burnt down many years ago but Kaitangata hapū intends to rebuild it.